Possum wallaby woes

With the big dry affecting many parts of Gippsland in Victoria (Australia), the amount of feed for wallabies, possums and other wildlife has diminished.  So what do they do when there’s no fresh grass?

With drought affecting Phillip Island and no sign of rain on the long term weather forecast, it’s looking a bit grim for the hungry hordes of animals on the reserve out the back of our place.  When they run out of green grass, what do they do? Why, they come checking out nearby properties for any titbit that’s green and edible.

Here the wildlife can choose to browse any number of properties and farms.  However, many are fully fenced, located in suburbia, or don’t have gardens because they’re only occupied for a few months each year.  That leaves places where humans reside during summer, and who plant and tend juicy horticultural things in our gardens.

ONCE UPON A TIME …

Our house backs onto a reserve.  Once upon a time it contained mangroves, shrubs and tall native grasses.  Seawater flooded much of it at high tide.  Of course, it would’ve been loved and used by many animals and hundreds of different birds.

Then a moron came along and turned it into a farm, building a land bridge to stop the tide, and whacking in cows so they could stroll along eating what little grass they could find and trampling on the native grasses, plants and mangroves.

One day about 6-8 years ago (can’t recall exactly when), the moron removed the cows and allowed the land to go back to its natural state.  And wow, has it flourished without that constant trampling.  Unfortunately rabbits and foxes moved in.  The Council undertook a baiting program to remove foxes from the island, but you’ll all know what happens to rabbit numbers when there’s no longer any predators.

MARCH OF THE MULTITUDES

Rabbits aside, the wallabies moved in.  Then the Cape Barren geese built nests in the swaying grasses, along with ducks and purple swamp hens (affectionally called pukekos in our household, because that’s what I knew them as growing up in NZ).

A plethora of other smaller birds also became common, and the possums think life is akin to nirvana.  We’ve even got snakes, echidnas and blue tongued lizards.  It’s helped enormously that a few neighbours added a permanent supply of water in troughs along the boundary fence.

So a multitude of critters great and small now have water, edible food, and places to hide and sleep.  The price they pay for that is competition for food and having to tolerate annoying human beings on one side of the fence.  They get their own back, as you will see.

SUMMER TIME AND THE LIVING IS …

In early summer, the animals and birds are very well behaved.  They eat their grass, wild fruits and seeds, they drink the water, they blink at us from a distance, and in the late afternoon they may visit a human’s property for a sticky beak.

Come late summer, with no decent rain for a few months and grasses effectively dried up, many creatures are struggling to find enough to eat.  So they come a-calling.  Every last single one of them.

WHO’S BAD …

  1. Possums

Possums are by far the worst.  Scungy fluffy cute little critters they may be, but they’re incredibly effective at knocking off everything.

Last week, in one night, they ate the ENTIRE crop of the neighbour’s flourishing and massive passionfruit crop.  That was hard to bear.

You cannot grow herbs or fruits without them being decimated.  Same deal for any vegetables at all – including hot chillies – because they’ll be munched by rats, rabbits, wallabies, possums, pukekos and a few other lurking creatures I’m probably not aware of.

Possums also love flower seedlings, and any plant with pelagonium or geranium in its title.  They pull them out by the roots, leaving nothing to continue growing.

Normally wildlife don’t touch succulents.  But when possums get peckish, the succulent collection is prey to a horror story.  Mine sit on a table above wallaby height, and the possums have to get through a barrage of spikey yukka plants to reach them.  So at this stage, they’re relatively untouched.  The neighbour, however, has suffered a posse of possums having a late night party and knocking the pots off their shelf, followed by the indignity of being trodden on and nibbled.

ALL my geraniums have suffered badly.  The larger ones planted in the garden have been jumped on and squashed flat during a myriad of night time possum parties.  Then they chow down on any juicy new growth, leaving a few bare stalks.  If the geranium is in a pot, it finds itself upside down on the ground and pulled out by its roots.

  1. Wallabies

Next up on the Bad List are the wallabies.  Anything they can reach is subject to a taste test, then nibbled at until destroyed.  Even caught a baby wallaby on my back verandah chewing at a spiny spikey succulent.

When really hungry, they chow down on succulents of all kinds including our huge jade bushes, shrubs (irrelevant whether they’re native or not), pelargoniums, herbs and climbers.

I’ve double fenced many areas, which the weeds have taken advantage of because it’s that much harder to reach over and pull them out.

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Baby wallaby drinking from our dilapidated birdbath
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Young wallaby in the reserve – “it wasn’t me …”
  1. Pukekos

Don’t actually mind pukekos.  They just mosey around and mind their own business, pecking the tripes out of the lawn to find juicy bugs.  They’re murder on water sources though –  dig up plants and poop into the water rendering it undrinkable for anything.

  1. Pheasants

Yes you’re correct, pheasants aren’t native to Australia.  Neither are dogs, cats, rabbits, foxes and a squillion other creatures the Brits left us with (yes, I’m from English/Scottish stock so this failure to think things through might’ve had something to do with my ancestors, but I like to think they were smarter than that).

Two pheasants escaped from a (now defunct) local pheasant farm some years ago (see my previous post).  Ferdinand was the original escapee and somehow Felicity has done a runner as well.  We’re very grateful – he was a lonely boy without her.  Figured a snake would’ve got them in the intervening years, but they’re actually alive and well.

They like to scratch through the soil, digging up grass and plants and leaving bare dry earth in its place.  It’s a nuisance, but at least they’re not eating my remaining precious plants or stealing lemons from the neighbour’s lemon tree.

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Ferdinand pecking in the backyard

END OF GARDEN CAPERS

So there you go.  We love the wildlife deeply, even have a possum box on the back verandah, but I really wish they’d go visit someone else’s property.

In the meantime, I continue to learn the lesson to only plant things they hate to eat, and buy all my fruit and vegetables from the supermarket.

You need to be casso-wary

When in Far North Queensland, we visited Hartley’s Crocodile & Wildlife Park near Cairns.  The creature that took my attention was a southern cassowary haughtily marching along the fence of its large enclosure. If you want a bird with wow factor, this one’s a stunning example.

A southern cassowary, for those who’ve not seen one, is a very tall intimidating bird with a boney helmet on its head, a bright blue neck and drooping red wattles. Unless you’re waddling around a zoo, you’ll only see these in tropical rainforests in north-east Queensland.

Why you should be wary of a cassowary

Cassowaries are actually quite shy and prefer to disappear into the forest before you remotely figure out they’re there.

The ladies are bigger and more brightly coloured than the men (as it should be). Height-wise they can grow to 2m (6.6ft). They’ve got tiny wings hence no flying about – and each of their three-toed feet has a second toe sporting a very sharp dagger-like claw.

This claw is why you need to be wary of a cassowary. If you annoy one too much, it could slice you with that claw and spill your intestines onto the grass below. You certainly don’t want to chase one through the dense forest either because they can jump up to 1.5m (5ft), swim across raging rivers and over the sea, and belt through dense forest at speeds up to 50kph (31mph).

However, in the real world, there’s only one documented death of a human from a whack by a cassowary and that was way back in 1926. Two boys, 13 and 16 year old brothers, saw a cassowary on their Dad’s property and because they were idiots, thought they’d kill the bird by whacking it with clubs.

The bird kicked the 13 year old, who ran off. His older brother then struck the bird. He tripped and fell and the cassowary took the opportunity to kick him in the neck which probably severed his jugular vein. One kaput 16 year old. Personally I vote for the bird.

If you like statistics, there were 221 attacks in 2003 of which 150 were against humans. This was mostly because humans fed the cassowaries (a big no-no) and the birds came to expect or snatch the food. Most of the other attacks were because the male was defending its nest.

This was my favourite painting to do. Who’d have thought cassowaries and boots could be such fun. Sadly I made it too tall and then couldn’t decide if I should cut the bottom part of the boot off, or the top of the cassowary’s head. The compromise was to fold down the top so you can open up the painting and see the lot.

Cassowary hi-jinks

The boney helmet on top of a cassowary’s head (called a casque) grows as they age, but it’s not really known what the casque is for. Perhaps it:

  • helps them smash through undergrowth so they don’t hurt their heads
  • enables them to push leaf litter around while scratching for tasty treats
  • enables them to smack other cassowaries around when fighting over who’s the biggest dude in the forest
  • amplifies low-frequency sounds made by cassowaries who are ready for a bit of naughty fun. That’s my theory. Feel free to make up your own.

Cassowaries munch on fallen fruit (their favourite), flowers, fungi, snails, insects, fish, frogs, rats, mice and dead creatures. Because they eat fruit whole, they’re VERY important for distributing plant species through the forest.

Each year, their solitary lifestyle is interrupted when a female or male decide it’s time for a bit of sexual proliferation. Males may share a female, but females will not tolerate another female hanging in their space.

In May or June, Mrs Cassowary lays 3-8 eggs in a heap of leaves, then Mr C moves in for nine months to incubate the eggs and look after the little chickies. I’m starting to think female cassowaries have it all worked out.

Wild cassowaries are thought to live to about 40 to 50 years. It’s endangered because humans run vehicles over them, dogs attack them, they get shot, tangled in fence wire, habitat destroyed by humans or cyclones, or they die from disease. Then feral pigs eat their eggs and other creatures eat their food supplies. It’s not a marvellous outcome.

So treat these birds with respect and behave yourself in the forest, then you needn’t be too wary of the magnificent cassowary!

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My desk with the cassowary painting in action

Bluey’s search for a sole

Last summer, while moving soil around the garden with the wheelbarrow, I ran over a long solid object. First thought – “why did the ol’ fellow leave the hose there?  What an odd place to put it.”

Micro-seconds later, I clicked it wasn’t a hose … and then gave myself a terrible fright thinking it was a snake. They’re beautiful creatures but there’s not a single non-poisonous snake in Australia, and Phillip Island certainly has its fair share of them slithering about. Running one over isn’t something you really want to do.

So with pounding pulse, I leapt about 30 feet into the air before realising it was actually an adult blue-tongue lizard I’d just abused.

The wheelbarrow was empty so no harm done and fortunately they’re very solid … although I’m sure the blue-tongue was deeply unimpressed. He lay there stock still, very embarrassed to be caught out.

At this point, to avoid further damage, I picked him up in gloved hands and gently placed him beyond the rear wire fence out of harm’s way. To my relief, he promptly took off for the safety of a fallen log.

This lizard really does have a blue tongue. If you watch quietly and don’t run over them with garden implements, you’ll easily spot that beautiful blue toned appendage flicking in and out.

This painting was a pleasure to do, particularly the canvas sneaker. I wanted the shoe to sit on the blue tongue’s back, to show he’d sneaked off and stolen it in his search for a sole. Hopefully it doesn’t look like he’s being squashed by it!

Bluey’s habits

Did you know we’ve got six species of blue-tongue lizard in Oz? Nope, I didn’t either. It’s a splendid number you have to admit.

They have a long body with a large head and short legs – hence the initial thinking that it was a snake. The legs aren’t initially that obvious. However they have a rather short tail which tapers off to a point, unlike our friend the snake with their l-o-n-g tails.

Blue-tongue lizards are found throughout most of Australia. We’ve seen them in all the Australian States visited so far, usually in unexpected places seeking out warmth or chasing something to fill their tummies.

At night they hide under leaf litter, in burrows or under rocks and logs. Once morning arrives, they meander about to find sunny spots for basking, and forage around for breakfast.

They eat all sorts of things including a wide variety of vegetation and invertebrates. With their large teeth and strong jaws, they easily crush snail shells and beetles. We have some pretty weird beetles lurking about, so they’re most welcome to those.

Blue-tongues prefer their own company most of the year. Then between September and November, the males go hunting females for a good time. They get rather rough though, and females can end up with scrape marks from the male’s teeth. I’m so glad I’m not a lizard.

And what’s that blue tongue for? When threatened, they open their mouth wide and poke out their tongue, which contrasts vividly with the pink mouth. Allegedly this colour combo scares away evil predators and dreadful human beings. Doesn’t work with wheelbarrows though.

Topsy turvy turtles

Truth to tell, I haven’t personally seen a Eastern Long Necked Turtle doing its thing in the natural world.

In late 2015, I saw a wonderful photo in one of Melbourne’s daily newspapers. Someone had piled three young turtles on top of each other at the Wild Action Zoo. They perched there looking highly alarmed while a photographer possibly frightened the tripes out of them taking a pic.

Still, the photo appealed so I hung onto it in expectation it might come in useful. Which it surely did.

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The article in question …

For the Sketchbook Project, I decided to draw two turtles atop each other but give one a smile because she’d grabbed a high heel shoe with her rear foot.

This painting turned out tricky to execute because of the large amount of dark shadows between the two turtles.

Thus it was particularly difficult to delineate one turtle shell from the other, and required much fiddling about so they didn’t completely meld into each other.

Don’t know that I was wildly successful – time consuming trying to get it right for this amateur.  Oddly, the rock on which they were perched ended up being the stickiest part to get right. C’est la vie!

Oh those naughty turtles

The Eastern Long Neck turtle (Chelodina longicollis) can be found lurking in various areas across South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales and northern parts of Queensland.

They adore swimming about in fresh water and are quite common, which was a surprise. Made me realise I rarely swim in fresh water looking for creatures, plus one would need to know where to look and carry diving gear.

They’re rather naughty too, these turtles. If one comes into contact with another species called Chelodina canni up there in Queensland, they’ll mess around together and produce lots of vibrant hybrid babies.

Our turtle has a variety of names including ‘snake-necked turtle’ and ‘stinker’. When one feels threatened, a charmingly offensive smelling fluid is emitted from their musk glands.

Our smelly turtle is carnivorous and munches through a variety of critters including insects, worms, tadpoles, frogs, small fish, molluscs and crayfish.

And if you’re wondering what the point of their long necks is, they use them at mealtimes to rapidly strike at any unfortunate creature passing by.

Double goosey gander

Ever met a Cape Barren goose?  No?  Then you’re in for a treat.

You won’t find this lovely hued goose anywhere other than Australia. They reside in the southern coast of Western Australia and in south-eastern Victoria, although we’ve only seen them on Phillip Island, where we are based.

They rank as one of the world’s rarest geese which makes them very special. Fortunately there are more of these geese kicking their heels up today than at any time since the settlement of Australia. This is apparently due to the improvement of pastures in which they graze – so much more to eat.

How about a magpie goose? They’re common in northern Australia and used to be widespread in southern Australia. However, the usual story – humans stuffed that up by draining the wetlands where the birds breed.

The Cape Barren goose and the magpie goose hang out at opposite ends of Australia. The monochromatic orange legged magpie goose lives in coastal northern and eastern Australia, and southern New Guinea as well.

Introducing the Cape Barren goose …

This gorgeous critter was rarely seen on Phillip Island. However, in recent years, they’ve become surprisingly common. They’re still classed as vulnerable or rare, so it’s a magnificent pleasure to see their numbers steadily increasing. Occasionally we’re treated to the sight of dozens of birds making merry together in grassy fields overlooking the bay.

This goose is a grazing bird and munches happily on common island tussock grass (Poa poiformis for those of you busting to know the Latin name). They’re also partial to chowing down on spear grass, herbs and succulents, pasture grasses such as barley and clover, and legumes.

They tend to hang about in pairs – it’s unusual to see one on its own. In autumn, Mum lays her eggs in a nest in the tussocks on open grasslands. To ensure he contributes equally to the equation, Dad builds the nest and lines it nicely with down.

Then they noisily defend it against other crazy geese. Like many humans, they’re monogamous and hang together for life. Mum incubates the eggs but the babies are brought up by both parents.

The birds on Phillip Island are wary of humans but they allow you get relatively close. Bird couples seem to inhabit the same areas all year around. We do a count every time we leave the island and you can almost always find the birds in the same fields.

Because their colouring is quite amazing, I decided to include one in my sketchbook. Both geese are tearing about on wheels and the Cape Barren goose has the dubious distinction of being on a skateboard.

And now for the magpie goose …

When wandering past the Port Douglas golf course on our northern Queensland meander, I spotted a gaggle of magpie geese picking around the edge of the grass.

They have a black neck and head, with a knob on the crown of the beak which increases in size with age. Bit like a female bottom really.

The underparts are white and the bits I like best – the bill, legs and feet – are orange. Where they differ from most waterfowl is they don’t have fully webbed feet. Instead they have strong clawed toes that are only partially webbed. I’m sure you all wanted to know that.

They’re very partial to chowing down on aquatic vegetation – mostly wild rice, paspalum, panicum and spike-rush, none of which seems too appealing to me.

Magpie geese build nests in secluded places, preferably close to wetlands. Like the Cape Barren goose, Dad builds the nest.

Mum and Dad mate for life, but a male might cohabit with two females. Why is it you always hear the story of one guy with two girls?  Why not the other way around?  And who’d have thought geese would have such proclivity towards this behaviour.

Fortunately all adults share incubation and care for their babies.

Given the magpie goose isn’t very keen to make your acquaintance, he’s on skates for a quick getaway.

Painting the geese

Thought I needed a wider drawing than the paper width of the journal allows, so started off with 3 sections (which you’ll see in the first 2 illustrations).  Eventually I gave away the first section to ensure it fitted correctly.

My Cape Barren goose was surprisingly tricky to get the colours right.  Not too happy with him and I’d redo if there was more time.  However, it gives you an idea of how cute he might be 🙂

Reverse shark attack!

Great white sharks (carcharodon carcharias if you’re a mad shark scientist) are a fearsome creature. They have very big teeth, swim damned fast, live in many oceans around the world, and are responsible for the largest number of fatal attacks on people. Our snakes, spiders and wombats can’t compete with them for knocking off humans.

In Australia, this summer saw a flurry of great whites lurking around New South Wales and South Australian beaches. Unprovoked attacks caused death, mayhem and serious injury, and closed beaches during the best time of the year for swimming. This is a very grim state of affairs when the sun is shining and the glittering water is calling.

If there’s one creature that terrifies most Australians, it’s the great white shark. Any hint of one and we won’t get in the water. Not a chance.

Personally I’m more concerned about saltwater crocodiles in far north Queensland. The water can get murky on the beach and you imagine one of these scaly toothed critters creeping out of the nearby river and lurking in the shallows, waiting for the moment when you swim right into its jaws. In reality, the likelihood of this is incredibly low.  On average, only one person a year gets themselves terminated by a croc.  You’re more likely to be eaten by a shark but only just – only 135 known shark fatalities in Australia in the last 100 years.  That’s not so bad.

Although I haven’t personally encountered a great white shark while swimming in Australian waters,  I’ve watched enough TV programs showing attacks on divers in cages and the news always avidly shows surfers being bitten during competitions. That’s close enough thanks.

About the painting

Found a photo of a great white shark in a Jetstar magazine when flying to Cairns from Melbourne.  On another page was an advertisement showing a photo of a woman floating through the ocean.

I sketched the shark for a spot of practise. Then in a micro-second of inspiration, I sketched the woman underneath, adding a snorkel, swimsuit and fins. And that was that, end of practise.  Until I went looking for creatures to paint for my Sketchbook project journal.  The shark’s teeth jumped out at me.

The final painting is essentially a simple copy of the original sketch with just a few tweaks – mostly the addition of fear in our shark’s eyes, and a high heel shoe with which to attack the shark.  Not that I advocate bashing sharks with high heels (or spear guns either for that matter).  Much better to get out of the water when you see that fin come splicing through the water.

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Hail the dragon

One of the more elusive creatures in Far North Queensland is a Boyds Forest Dragon.

I’ve only spotted these dragons once. We were staying in Port Douglas way back in May 2006 and one day decided to meander along Mossman Gorge in the Daintree Forest north of Cairns.

There were two dragons clinging to slender tree trunks and being peered at by Japanese tourists, a fortunate event otherwise it’s unlikely we’d have noticed their presence and my life would’ve been emptier for not having seen them.

I’ve been meaning to paint one of these lizards but time, circumstance and sheer laziness meant this wasn’t a happening thing.

Holidaying again in Port Douglas in October 2015, it was time to do some painting. Despite another slow walk through the Mossman Gorge, not a single dragon was spotted.

What’s a Boyd’s Forest Dragon look like?

Here’s my photo from 2006. The light was poor so had to use a flash … it rather washed out the colour of the dragon. Boyds Forest Dragon in Mossman Gorge, Queensland

This lizard is medium sized with quite bright markings. They’ve got pink scales on the cheeks, mustard yellow beneath the jaw line, and olive brown skin with brighter patches of yellow, black and white. Surprisingly, despite all that lovely colour, they’re a shocker to spot in the forest.

They’re endemic to the wet tropics region of North Queensland so you’re not going to find one anywhere else but in a zoo.

The drawing begins

Their eyes are quite beautiful so I to start with, I decided to draw just one eye. When I manage to take a better photo, will draw the whole creature.

These creatures are quite complex with all those little scales, so the drawing was by the far the longest part of the process.
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Time for a little watercolour to be added to the pupil and around the scales.
Boyds Forest Dragon eye with some watercolour

Some additional colours added to the section beneath the eye.
Boyds Forest Dragon - eye with some watercolour

Some colour added to the top of the eye. At all times one is wondering at what point one is going to completely stuff this up.
Boyds Forest Dragon eye with some watercolour

Some tweaks to the iris and it’s done.  Not one of my best but I enjoyed puttering with the detail. In retrospect it needs some more darks to delineate the wrinkles, but that’s a job for another day.
Boyds Forest Dragon eye

Solving the puzzle of Ferdinand

February 2015

Sometime in September 2014, a feathered pheasant with a rather magnificent long tail and red facial feathers wandered into the reserve at the back of our home on Phillip Island.

He meandered up and down the reserve, calling out periodically with a double raucous sqwark – grarrrrrrrk grarrk (that’s about the closest I can get in English).  One thing’s for sure, he had a distinctive call.

For those who aren’t bird savvy, pheasants are not remotely native to the state of Victoria, let alone Australia.  They just plain don’t live here in the wild.  So to see one popping in and out of the bush … well, you know it’s not normal.

For a few months he kept everyone with properties backing onto the reserve highly entertained.  One neighbour left a bucket of water on the back fence for him (which the wallabies made good use of) and our pheasant ran joyfully along the fence line staying hydrated and cool.

A name …

Didn’t take long before we called him Ferdinand.  I thought it had great flair for such a distinctive and noisy bird.

Each weekend was spent listening for his calls and chasing him around with a camera.  He was pretty cadgey though.  You would see him scurrying about, but not long enough to get a great photo.

Closeup of Ferdinand
Fuzzy close-up of Ferdinand
And where?

The entire neighbourhood wondered from whence Ferdinand had come. Various theories were suggested and our best guess involved an escapee from a pheasant farm.  However, no-one was aware of such an enterprise anywhere on the island.

Moving forwards …

It’s now February 2015.  Ferdinand hasn’t been seen or heard for a few weeks, so we’re all missing his fleeting feathered personnage. He’s part of our lives, eagerly looked for, and his appearances were much anticipated by the all. He’s caused a lot of neighbourhood bonding to go on over the fences.

So we figured Ferdinand pheasant was either:

1.  dead from snakebite
2.  run over by a vehicle
3.  died from starvation (no clue as to what  pheasants eat)
4.  pined away from lack of a scrumptious female companion
5.  mauled or eaten by vicious dog
6.  found somewhere better to live

It’s now pushing towards mid February without any sign of Ferdinand.  We are all devastated.  Everyone’s listening out for him but it’s still suspiciously quiet.

Then on Saturday, a neighbour announces Ferdinand has been spotted drinking from the bucket.  We are delirious with happiness.  This is the best news since Gregoire the Magnificent unexpectedly announced he was nicking down to the supermarket to get a chocolate bavarian & cream for dessert.

Late afternoon I finally hear him call briefly but despite rushing out to look, he’s vanished into the bush.  At least we know he’s alive … a very good sign.

The mystery unfolds

Late afternoon, being a beautiful summer’s evening, we stroll around Silverleaves and turn down a very short dead-end street.

We’ve lived here for about 10 years and never walked down this street because it hardly seemed worthwhile. But today we spot a house and can’t work out where the driveway is.  Perhaps it’s off this dead end road?

Yes, it certainly is and what’s more, there’s a wide grassy path at the end used as an access road between the hobby farms and our reserve.  We’re quite thrilled – if there’s ever a fire in the area, it’s an excellent exit to escape.

Because anything new is such fun to explore, we walk down the grassy path and marvel at all the wildlife in the reserve.  Wallabies, rainbow lorikeets, purple swamp hens (called pukekos in New Zealand), wagtails, ducks variants, kookaburras, ravens, blackbirds, a few bazillion rabbits and even an orange bellied snake.  A horse languishes in a paddock, being kept company by a wallaby and two swamp hens sneaking drinks from his water trough.

On the right, above the fence of the first hobby farm, I see heaps of netting.  So I climb the fence and peek over.  And yeah, you guessed it.  Under the  netting are about a dozen pheasants – some female, some male.  Bingo.

Mystery unravelled

At last we know the location of Ferdinand’s real home.  While the netting is to stop the birds flying away, it obviously wasn’t good enough to hold in a gentleman  pheasant with the strength, charisma and talent of our feathered friend.

We also now understand why he’s not moving away too far away.  For all we know, he goes home at night and perches on the netting so he can see his girlfriends.  I’ve since discovered they squawk mostly during the breeding season. As we roll into late summer, the mating season is over and hence his lack of noise.

Puzzle solved.  Unless he’s caught, may we have many years ahead with our Ferdinand clackerting around the reserve providing endless entertainment.

Additional information on pheasants:

Burkes Backyard

  • Pheasants are very secretive birds and can easily be alarmed. They are generally not vocal but tend to squawk during the breeding season.
  • Pheasants are omnivorous, eating everything from fruit and vegetables, seeds, grains, roots, bulbs, leaves, insects, grasshoppers, slugs and snails to small lizards.

Wikipedia

  • Common pheasants are native to Asia, their original range extending from between the Black and Caspian Seas to Manchuria, Siberia, Korea, Mainland China and Taiwan.
  • The birds are found in woodland, farmland, scrub, and wetlands. In its natural habitat, the common pheasant lives in grassland near water with small copses of trees.
  • Common pheasants can now be found across the globe due to their readiness to breed in captivity and the fact they can naturalise in many climates.